Two weeks’ leave and €230 a week in paternity benefit for new fathers

Tánaiste says ‘groundbreaking’ legislation brings State into line with EU

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: says Bill will allow new fathers, including fathers of adopted children, to take paternity leave and a minimum paternity benefit of €230 a week for two weeks. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald: says Bill will allow new fathers, including fathers of adopted children, to take paternity leave and a minimum paternity benefit of €230 a week for two weeks. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Up to 40,000 fathers a year may apply for the new provision of two weeks’ paternity leave, which the Government hopes to have in place by the end of September. Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald yesterday introduced the Paternity Leave and Benefit Bill into the Dáil, which will bring Ireland into line with other EU member states offering social welfare benefits and time off after the birth of a child.

Ms Fitzgerald said that in the Irish context, the legislation was “groundbreaking”. It will allow new fathers, including fathers of adopted children, to take paternity leave and a minimum paternity benefit of €230 a week for two weeks at any time within the first six months of birth. The Bill will apply equally to same-sex couples and the Minister said it would also apply to self-employed fathers.

In a full year, if 40,000 men apply, it will cost the State €20 million; it is expected to cost €5 million this year. The Minister pointed out that there was a varying uptake in other countries and in the UK, about 50 per cent of fathers availed of the provision.

Ms Fitzgerald said it was important for fathers to be involved at the earliest stages of a child’s development. The State would be taking a “most humane approach”. If a baby is stillborn or dies, “the entitlement to paternity leave still continues and, if one parent dies, the other parent inherits whatever leave has not been taken”.

Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O’Loughlin said employers would soon get used to more men taking time off work after their children are born, “as well as mothers working earlier”. She referred to comments by former UK business minister Jo Swinson that “it does not take long to shatter the perception that it is mainly a woman’s role to stay at work and look after the child”.

Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on children Anne Rabbitte paid tribute to the Minister for delivering on her commitment to introduce the legislation. Sinn Féin social protection spokesman John Brady said the absence of paternity leave “is a stain on successive governments’ parental policy”.

“It must not be taken that the job is done once the Bill goes through. There must be a wider approach to organise leave and tackle the childcare crisis in Ireland.”

Labour TD Brendan Ryan said the EU had always led Ireland in the area of parental rights and paternity leave. “We have always lagged behind our European neighbours on this and I am very proud of Labour’s role in the last government in getting this matter on the agenda and ultimately before us this afternoon.”